I know, I know … I’m a guy writing about purse carry. But nearly a lifetime carrying guns has shown me traits that work with any method of carry. Even purses. So let’s apply some of that to this unique method of carry.
On the positive side, purse carry conceals the firearm well. There are no giveaway bulges under the covering garment, and no clunks as the firearm bumps a doorframe or chair. Since no covering garment is needed, the user can wear whatever seems appropriate, from shirt and shorts to evening wear. In my opinion, the biggest benefit of purse carry is it allows the carry of a full-size defensive pistol. There’s no need to compromise by carrying a subcompact handgun. Even a slender, smaller-framed person can be armed with a high-cap 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP or a medium-frame revolver.
The negatives are inherent in any off-body style of carry — even a man’s “tactical” shoulder bag! The user can get separated from the purse — and the firearm. The purse itself is an obvious target for (duh!) purse-snatchers. During the daily routine the purse will be out of the owner’s hands at some time. It’s not uncommon while shopping to see a purse unattended in a shopping cart while its owner is an aisle or two away. Come on, ladies; think about that.
Even in a relatively safe environment, leaving the purse unattended means others, like kids, may be able to find the firearm. Also, carrying a handgun in a regular purse, along with the usual purse items, may make it hard to retrieve when needed, or make the gun visible when the purse is opened. Most of the cons of purse carry can be addressed by a combination of two things — diligence by the person carrying, and good design by the maker.
This is the Galco “Classic” purse, made of high grade, soft leather. The handgun
compartment is large enough to hold full-size defensive models and easily accepts
the examples shown: Glock 19 9mm in purse, Nighthawk T3 (L) and S&W 640 .357.
Galco offers a line of purses specifically designed for carrying a handgun. The model shown here, the Classic, has a separate, zippered compartment to hold the firearm. The compartment is large enough to accommodate most full-size defensive pistols. Inside the compartment is a fabric holster made of some stretchy material to fit different handgun sizes, along with a safety strap held by hook-and-loop material. This ensures the gun is always in the same position, it won’t get mixed up with a bunch of clutter, and it won’t be accidentally revealed in the course of the daily routine.
The zipper is located on one end and has a locking feature, with two keys provided, to lock the zipper closed. It’s not what I’d call a gun safe since the entire purse can be taken. I wouldn’t want the zipper locked during routine daily carry as it kind of defeats the purpose of a defensive handgun. But there are occasions where the lock is a welcome feature.
The purse’s features give the user worthwhile options. If visiting friends, with the purse hung on a chair or resting on a shelf, the zipper can be locked so inquisitive children can’t open it. On the other hand, while walking a lonely street, the purse can be worn with the carrying strap diagonally across the body, and the user’s hand inside the compartment holding the gun. It’s concealed, yet ready for instant use.
The gun compartment of the Galco Classic purse. An elastic holster adjusts for
various gun sizes, while the safety strap with hook-and-loop fabric ensures
it’s always in the same position.
I know nothing of styles in men’s fashion, much less womens’, but Galco offers around a dozen designs, with varying color options, to appeal to different tastes and circumstances. I can recognize quality when I see it, and these Galco purses certainly are beautifully made. The leather is high quality, attractive in appearance, and colored examples are dyed to a uniform finish. Stitching is tight and even, leather edges are neatly finished, and the accessories (buckles, snaps, zippers) are likewise of high quality.
In our tests, the interior holster and safety strap readily adapted to several handgun styles, including a Nighthawk T3 .45, a Glock 19 and a S&W 640 .357 Magnum. I rather like the ability of the concealed-hammer 640 to fire its five shots through the purse if necessary. It’s a worthwhile feature, though it would be nice to combine it with the T3’s crisp trigger break and the 19’s magazine capacity. Alas, nothing’s perfect.
Purse carry isn’t for everyone or for all circumstances. It’s another option, often a good option, and in some situations is the best option. If it’s one you are considering, we can recommend the Galco line.
By Dave Anderson